The New England Patriots will travel to Jerry’s World for a matchup against the NFC East Dallas Cowboys in one of the more anticipated games of the weekend. The Patriots are coming off an early bye week, while the banged-up Cowboys lost a heartbreaker to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday Night.
“They’ve had two tough losses. I think they’re a very good football team, especially on defense. We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Tom Brady said on Dennis and Callahan on Monday morning.
The Cowboys have found a way to stay in games with back- up Brandon Weeden taking reps under center, and, in hindsight, the Cowboys defense was pretty strong in the matchup with Drew Brees. But injuries have crept up on the Cowboys early this season.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant hurt his foot back in Week 1 and will be sidelined until at least Week 7. Quarterback Tony Romo went out with a broken collarbone in Week 2. Lance Dunbar went down last game with a serious knee injury. He led the team in receptions, and is done for the year with a torn ACL. Sean Lee left Sunday’s game with a concussion. He led the team in tackles. The Cowboys may be in first place in their division right now, but more key losses to the team may end up dashing their playoff hopes.
Either way, stopping the run is the key to this game. For New England to come out on top, they will have to clamp down on running backs Joseph Randle and Darren McFadden. Randle leads the Cowboys with 44 touches on first down and has racked up a solid amount of yards through four games.
Although the Patriots have been able to clog up the middle, they still rank last in the league when it comes to stopping the run game. They are allowing 4.88 yards per carry to opposing teams and a dismal 5.86 yards per carry on first down.  The defensive line will have to step up, though with newcomers Akiem Hicks and Khyri Thronton joining the roster, Malcom Brown, Dominique Easley and Alan Branch can be thankful.
If the defensive line can crash Weeden early on and rattle him, there should be no question the Patriots will succeed on defense. Weeden has a strong arm, but his inability to pass down the field in long third down situations could cost the Cowboys. That will be an objective for Matt Patricia’s defense.
On the other side of the ball, Josh McDaniels’ offense has been stellar. Brady is on a tear so far, throwing nine touchdowns, no interceptions, and over 1,000 yards through three games. With versatile weapons like Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowksi at his disposal, the Patriots should have no problems picking apart a banged- up Cowboy’s secondary.
That being said, the Patriots need to execute and use LaGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis to their advantage. Blount scored three touchdowns last time out against the Jacksonville Jaguars to help lead the Patriots to a 51-17 win. With Blount running the ball frequently in the second half of that game it will be interesting to see how many touches Lewis gets. I expect him to continue to help Brady on the receiving end.
Last time these teams met, in 2011, the Patriots found a way to sneak by the Cowboys 20-16 at Gillette Stadium. The last time they played in Dallas, the Cowboys still played in Texas Stadium, during the 2007 undefeated season run where Brady led the team to a 48-27 victory. In a season that is already gaining widespread comparisons to 2007, will the outcome be similar? I think so.
Prediction: Patriots 45 Cowboys 24

Executive Editor